Guy Garvey says music fans should pay more for streaming services

Elbow frontman says system is not sustainable and bands are struggling to sustain careers

Music fans have to be prepared to pay more for the songs they love in the streaming age, according to Elbow’s Guy Garvey, who says the next generation of bands are being lost because they cannot sustain careers in the current climate.

Garvey, who gave evidence last week to a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport inquiry into the impact of streaming, told the Guardian he believed services such as Spotify and Apple Music were not charging enough.

“The big picture is that £10 a month for access to all music is too little,” he said. “It came out in the committee the other day: everyone feels a little bit guilty for having access to all this music for fuck all. It’s not sustainable and the emergency is we’re losing artists because they’re demoralised and they can’t afford to live.”

Garvey is pushing for equitable remuneration in which streams are split 50/50 between labels and groups, meaning a percentage goes directly to the people who made the recording. He called it “reliable income that’s nothing to do with the labels or to do with the streaming platform – it’s a right”.

Equitable remuneration already applies to broadcast usage in the UK, and Garvey and others who gave evidence – including the founder of the #BrokenRecord campaign, Gomez’s Tom Gray – want it to be extended to cover streaming.

Garvey is confident a new consensus can be reached between labels, artists and consumers, and sees the current moment as an opportunity to make music more sustainable for artists.

He said: “What we need to do is talk to everybody that has set up this incredible way of listening to music … because this is an opportunity to make things fair that frankly haven’t been for a good 100 years.”

Elbow formed in the 90s and rose to prominence with their debut album, 2001’s Asleep in the Back, which was shortlisted for the Mercury prize. Garvey praised the record labels he has worked with and said they had been able to nurture the band and take them from playing in pubs to becoming a huge live draw and a critically lauded group.

He said: “It’s about connecting music with its audience and Elbow had so much help from record labels in doing that. They know what they’re there to do and they’re proud of it. It’s just we’ve dropped the ball between us.”

Garvey said the revelatory moment for many during the evidence was when MPs heard that even though they might only listen to one or two albums on a streaming site, their subscription fee would mostly go to bigger artists.

“People don’t realise that their artists don’t get their cash and that needs fixing,” he said. “I think it will be fixed and it will be the labels and the artists and a bit of government, and it will also be the streaming platforms, and it will be the consumers that fix it.”

Garvey said that as Brexit looms he thought there should be an artistic passport for British and European artists so that tours are not lumbered with additional costs for visas. “There is no such thing as an MP who wants to be seen as not liking music,” he said.

“Everyone needs to get organised, that’s all. So we’ll have to come up with some kind of artistic passport that doesn’t involve too much red tape or any money. And that has to happen pretty fast, and has to last until we rejoin Europe.”


Lanre Bakare Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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